In October 2019 Caroline’s dad Nick began undergoing tests. At the end of the month he was given his diagnosis, but as he seemed so well Caroline and her family never imagined it would be anything serious.
Caroline’s parents called the family to their house in early November 2019 to tell them Nick had been diagnosed with pancreatic stage 4 cancer, which had already spread to his liver. He calmly explained what this meant and the process he would go through regarding chemotherapy and his prognosis. At that point his family’s world came crumbling down.
With their wedding planned for May 2021, Caroline and her partner brought it forward to January 2020 without hesitation. Then, before Nick began his treatment, all generations of the family gathered at Queen Elizabeth Country Park for a collection of beautiful family photos and to make lots of happy memories.
Nick started his chemotherapy at the end of November with a cocktail of drugs formulated in the hope he wouldn’t lose his hair. After two of the three doses his blood platelet count was too low, meaning he couldn’t have the third dose.
His second round of chemo in December caused him to start losing his thick, dark hair – Nick was just so proud of his ‘crowning glory’. So, just before Christmas, Caroline’s brother-in-law shaved Nick’s head for him and also shaved his own in moral support. Knowing this would be their last Christmas together, the family all gathered for the festivities to celebrate with Nick. Shortly after Christmas, Nick’s leg became infected meaning he then couldn’t finish his second course of chemo.
Kicking January 2020 off in style, Caroline and her partner had planned a whole wedding in just six weeks. Having the honour of her Dad walking her down the aisle, Caroline remembers it as such a perfect day. In the same month, Nick also welcomed his sixth grandchild into the world.
Despite the highs, further scans revealed the chemo wasn’t making any difference so Nick made the decision not to continue with this treatment; in his words he chose to have “quality rather than quantity”.
By March, Coronavirus (COVID-19) had hit the UK and the nation was thrown into lockdown, resulting in huge devastation to Caroline and her family.
Unable to see Nick and spend quality time together, Caroline, her husband and their son video-called every day so they could chat, and Nick could watch Angus (aged 1) playing with his train track.
Determined to continue making memories, the whole family enjoyed weekly group video calls doing quizzes and playing games; a time Caroline fondly remembers as so much fun with a lot of laughs along the way.
Of course, Nick was on the shielding list, so it was especially hard for his family not to be able to see him, let alone cuddle him, but they used this time to take the grandchildren up to play in his huge garden while Nick would watch fondly from inside.
In May, Caroline, her Mum, and sisters celebrated her Dad’s birthday in a socially distanced way, but he was starting to struggle with his appetite and had begun to have some swelling around his abdomen and in his legs. He had another scan due to huge swelling which was a suspected abnormal build-up of abdominal fluid. Caroline gathered both her sisters and all their children into her Mum and Dad’s garden and her husband constructed a socially distanced photo shoot to ensure Nick had family photos including his youngest granddaughter.
Nick received a phone call from the oncologist on 1 June telling him there was minimal fluid and the swelling was due to the liver metastasis growing.
Due to the pandemic and fear of contagion, Nick made the decision to die at home surrounded by his beloved family which is when the Rowans Hospice at Home team became involved.
Nick deteriorated very quickly and sadly lost his battle on Tuesday 9 June 2020 at 6:50pm, surrounded by his wife, niece, Caroline, and her sisters. Caroline’s family set up a Much Loved page in memory of her Dad, and collectively they have raised over £4,000 for the Rowans through Much Loved and Facebook donations.
In September, to honour her dad’s memory, Caroline decided to sign up for the Great South Run Solo to again raise money for the Charity. The Rowans Hospice Charity was one that Caroline had always known about, but thanks to the care her Dad received, had only recently become very close to her and her family’s hearts. The Great South Run Solo was a running challenge to complete 25 runs in 48 days, culminating on the 18 October 2020 (the day the Great South Run 2020 should have taken place).
Caroline decided to take part in the Great South Run Solo to give something back. She said:
As a family we cannot thank the Rowans enough for their support; The Hospice at Home nurses who attended the house multiple times, and did their utmost to make Dad’s last days as comfortable as possible.
The Meerkats Bereavement Service helped us explain death to our children and the Living Well Centre team who continually supported us, listened to us cry, checked in on us when we needed it most and are always at the end of the phone if we need them.
I am no runner but I did complete the Couch to 5K during lockdown. When my Dad passed I stopped running and lost the rhythm and stamina, but I know how proud Dad was of me for doing it and this helps me to carry on!
At the time of writing, Caroline’s JustGiving page has raised over £850 for Rowans, smashing her target of £250. Thank you so much for your support Caroline.
If you have been inspired by Caroline’s story and would like to donate, please visit Caroline’s JustGiving page